An Introduction to Reflexology

An Introduction To ReflexologyReflexology is a natural health practice that is often described as “foot massage.” However, it is a lot more than just a foot massage and reflexology can help you to manage many health problems; headaches, PMS, back pain and asthma are just a few of the conditions that may be helped by the practice of reflexology. Although reflexology is an ancient practice it is enjoying a revival today, as more people discover the many benefits that it has to offer.

Ancient History of Reflexology

It is believed that some form of reflexology practice dates back to before records began; however, the earliest record of reflexology is famously depicted on the tomb of Ankhmahor in Saqqara, Egypt. The tomb dates back to 2330 BC and drawings on the tomb show a person “massaging” the foot of another (source: eflexology: A Way to Better Health, Nicola Hall).

Modern Day History of Reflexology

Some of the most influential people in the practice of modern day reflexology were Dr William Fitzgerald, Eunice Ingham and Hanne Marquardt. Dr William Fitzgerald was an American ear, nose and throat specialist who developed the theory of zone therapy at the beginning of the 20th century; he found a link between the energy located in the feet and hands to corresponding zones in the body. These zones were called longitudinal zones and consisted of ten zones running up and down the body from head to toe, forming a natural division of the body between the toes and fingers. Blockages that developed within a particular body part could be unblocked by applying pressure in the corresponding zone.

Eunice Ingham was a student of Dr Fitzgerald and developed Fitzgerald’s zone theory further; she brought mainstream attention to reflexology in the 1930’s. Two students of Eunice Ingham brought the practice of reflexology to the UK and Europe. Doreen Bayly opened the Bayly School of Reflexology in the UK in the 1960s; Hanne Marquardt, a German student, completed the modern day practice of reflexology by developing the theory of transverse zones across the body, in three places, so that reflexology points were more precisely located.

Types of Reflexology Practice

The most common practice of reflexology is carried out on the feet; however, reflexology can also be carried out on the hands and even the ears. In addition, various types of reflexology practice have developed from the initial practice of foot reflexology. Today it is possible to practice facial reflexology, maternity reflexology, baby reflexology and vertical reflexology (source: vertical reflexology).

What to Expect From a Reflexology Treatment

The following advice refers to the practice of common foot reflexology. A reflexology treatment is different to a regular massage treatment in several ways:

  • you remain clothed throughout a treatment, except for the removal of your socks and shoes
  • you are usually seated in a chair
  • treatments last between 30 and 45 minutes (depending on the therapist).

A trained and qualified reflexology therapist will take a full case history of your personal and medical background and establish the particular problem that you wish to address in the treatment (eg back pain). The therapist will usually recommend a course of reflexology treatments in order to gain the maximum benefit from the treatments. A reflexology therapist cannot claim to cure any specific health difficulty that you have but you will usually start to notice some differences after a few treatments. Depending on your health, you may initially find the treatment a little uncomfortable or tender on your feet but you should not experience any significant pain from a reflexology treatment.

Reflexology for Your Health

You can use reflexology to treat a wide range of health problems including respiratory conditions, various types of pain, emotional difficulties, women’s health problems, migraine and headaches. It can also be practiced on babies, children, pregnant women and the elderly. Reactions vary in different people but in general reflexology is an extremely effective tool for helping you manage your personal health. Consult a health practitioner for further advice on a specific health problem if you are unsure about taking a reflexology treatment.


  • Hall, Nicola, 1988, Reflexology: A Way to Better Health
  • Author is a qualified reflexologist practitioner


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